- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2000

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. George W. Bush yesterday clung to a narrow lead as most Florida counties completed their recount, but Al Gore refused to concede the election, demanding additional recounts and threatening a protracted court fight.
Florida officials said the Texas governor was ahead by 1,784 votes after ballots were recounted in 53 of 67 counties. But the Associated Press put Mr. Bush's lead at just 229 votes after gathering recount numbers from 67 counties.
Part of the discrepancy was due to Palm Beach County, where Mr. Gore appears to have picked up hundreds of votes in the recount. The gain was disproportionate to most other counties, where totals shifted by only a handful of ballots.
"This is a disturbing difference," said Bush campaign manager Carl Rove. "In fact, we have sent a letter to the Palm Beach authorities raising a question."
Mr. Rove is suspicious because the Palm Beach recount turned up 800 extra ballots three-fourths of which were for Mr. Gore.
The Palm Beach County Canvassing Board yesterday declined to answer questions from reporters, but announced it would conduct yet another computer recount in order to satisfy Republican concerns. The board also agreed to a request from Democrats to hand count 1 percent of the precincts tomorrow.
Gore supporters, frustrated that the state recount has not reversed the outcome of Tuesday's election, seized on the design of the Palm Beach County ballot, declaring it "illegal" and confusing to would-be Gore voters.
A circuit judge issued a preliminary injunction barring the canvassing commission in the county from certifying the final recount results until a hearing is held Tuesday.
That was in response to a legal challenge filed with the support of Democrats who say the poor ballot design in the county led some Gore supporters to inadvertently mark their ballots for Pat Buchanan.
The court order said the ballot was designed and printed in such a way that voters were deprived of their right to freely express their will.
In all, eight lawsuits challenging the results were filed in state or federal court, including six in Palm Beach County and two in Tallahassee, where race discrimination was alleged.
But Republicans pointed out the ballot was designed and approved by Democrats, who never objected to its use when they had the chance prior to the election.
With state officials saying the final recount might not be completed until next week, Democrats questioned the validity of the election and called for fresh recounts in four counties. Bush supporters hinted they would demand recounts in states where Gore won narrowly or Democrats are suspected of fraud.
Bush officials were pondering whether to press for recounts in Iowa where Mr. Gore won by less than 5,000 and Wisconsin where the margin was fewer than 6,000 votes. A recount was under way in New Mexico's most populous county, too. And the law in Oregon requires a recount in close races; the margin was just over 2,000.
Republicans were disappointed when Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris failed to deliver on expectations that she would announce recount results from all 67 counties by 5 p.m. yesterday, which would have allowed Mr. Bush to assert himself as president-elect.
The vote totals include some but not all absentee ballots sent to Floridians living overseas. Those ballots had to be postmarked by Election Day, but can be returned as late as Nov. 17.
Democrats took advantage of the delay by lowering expectations for a speedy resolution to the standoff, saying it could take weeks or even months before a new president is ascertained. They also emphasized Mr. Gore's nationwide victory in the popular vote, although his 200,000-vote lead just 0.198 percent of the more than 100 million voters was narrowing as more ballots were tallied.
Mr. Gore, who at one point early Wednesday was so resigned to defeat that he congratulated the Texas governor on his victory, now seems prepared for what appears to be a rancorous political and legal war that some fear will spawn a constitutional crisis.
"I believe that their actions to try to presumptively crown themselves the victors, to try to put in place a transition, run the risk of dividing the American people and creating a sense of confusion," Gore campaign chairman William M. Daley said of Mr. Bush and his advisers.
The sharp escalation in rhetoric underscored the enormous stakes of the dispute. It also threatened to undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of the next president, regardless of which man finally secures the White House.
With each passing day of uncertainty, more Americans appear unsettled by the deadlock. Wall Street reacted negatively as investors converted stocks to cash until the unprecedented power void is filled.
Demonstrations by Democratic activists grew larger yesterday as activists like the Rev. Jesse Jackson joined the fray. Addressing a boisterous protest rally in Florida, he brandished a copy of the Palm Beach County ballot, which was emblazoned with a "Gore-Lieberman" sticker.
"This ballot is fuzzy," thundered the civil right leader. "It is deceptive."
Both sides dispatched dozens of lawyers and political operatives to Florida and geared up fund-raising drives to finance what is exploding into a post-campaign recount campaign.
As the crisis deepened, both candidates decided not to make public comments yesterday. Mr. Gore grinned and waved to photographers as he jogged in Nashville, Tenn., with his daughters and brother-in-law, Frank Hunger, but left the rhetoric to underlings.
The vice president later flew back to Washington, officially moving his campaign headquarters from Nashville to the nation's capital. He was coming full circle from 16 months ago, when he abruptly moved his foundering campaign from Washington to Nashville in order to escape the cynicism of the Beltway and get back in touch with average Americans.
As the drama unfolded in Florida, Attorney General Janet Reno said in Washington she saw no reason for federal authorities to "jump in" the controversy. The former Miami prosecutor said she would review any complaints brought to her.
"We are not here to generate controversy," she said.

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